The Lunch Job Interview Test: How Recruiters might test you

Lunch InterviewHave you ever been in a situation in which you had two brilliant candidates for a job but really didn’t know who to hire? Why not taking them out for lunch and see how they interact with you and other people in a different social environment? I used this strategy quite often in my recruitment career. In hindsight, I must say that applying the lunch job interview test, very often really helped me to make the right hiring decision. This experience will reveal a lot more from a candidate. You will get a much better understanding of their personality and know whether this is really the person you want to hire or recommend to a client.

This article would be basically beneficial for both parties, the recruiter and the job candidate. The recruiter will get an idea how to approach the lunch job interview test, while candidates get a better understanding of the mistakes that they should possibly avoid during this lunch job interview test.

The Lunch Job Interview Test

Let me give you some examples on what you should focus on in this lunch job interview test:

  • How good are the candidate’s table manners? (Does the person talk with their mouth full? Does s/he know when and where to place his napkin? Does s/he know what fork or glass to use? Does s/he know how to eat the food he ordered correctly?) You might think this is all basic stuff, but many professionals still don’t know how to conduct themselves 100 % correctly when it comes to dining. Job candidates, but also business professionals have lost jobs/further business opportunities due to their unacceptable dining faux pas.
  • How good is the candidate’s general knowledge during this lunch interview? Is s/he a good small talker? (How knowledgeable is s/he in terms of news and current affairs? Can you talk with this person about any kind of topic, no matter whether it’s business, sports, politics, entertainment, etc.)?
  • How well does the candidate manage the challenge of answering questions while eating?
  • How does the person treat other staff members of the restaurant during this lunch interview? Is s/he friendly, patient, polite or rude, impatient and obnoxious?
  • When it comes to ordering their meal, does the candidate order from the middle-priced category or does s/he take advantage by ordering the most expensive meals and drinks (since you/your company is going to pay for it)?
  • Did the candidate disclose any kind of information that in an office environment s/he would have never revealed?
  • In public, would this candidate represent my company (or the client’s company) well or would I feel embarrassed for various reasons?

Here are some strategies that companies have applied in order to test a candidate during a lunch interview. You would need a bit of collaboration and discretion from the restaurant’s team. Tell them in advance what your intentions are and hope for the best that they participate.


The Real Life Scenario….


Let’s give the candidate the name Marc.

  • Ask the waiter to let Marc wait for his meal at least for half an hour. How does Marc react? Does he start to complain? If so, in what way?
  • Try to give the impression that this interview is less formal. How professional does Marc still remain throughout lunchtime?
  • Ask the waiter to bring him the wrong meal. What does Marc do? Is he getting rude and impolite? Does he take it easily and accepts whatever he gets? Does he ask for what he actually ordered?
  • You start eating HIS bread roll. What does Marc do? Does he make you aware of your mistake? If so, how does he do it?
  • Ask someone from your company to call Marc on his mobile phone at a certain time (knowing for sure that you are still sitting in the restaurant). In case Marc has his mobile phone switched on: Will he switch it off without talking? Will he answer the phone and talk as long as necessary? Will he answer briefly and then hang up? In that particular moment does he respect and engage with the caller more than with you?  (The right thing would be if Marc’s phone would be switched off in the first place.)
  • Order some alcoholic drinks. What has Marc decided to do? Does he easily agree and join you? Does he reject the drink to make sure he doesn’t get drunk? Or does he drink more than expected and you feel it’s getting embarrassing for you?
  • Tell the waiter – in advance – to present at the end of the lunch the bill to Marc, not to you. What is his first reaction? Does he not react at all and just ignore it? Does he hand it over to you? Does he pay the full amount? Does he pay half of the bill? Does he say he left his money/card at home? (Remember: It’s your responsibility as a Hiring Manager to pay the full bill if you invite the candidate for a lunch interview.)

Your challenge as a Recruiter is to make this lunch job interview test look as natural as possible. If the vacancy that you are trying to fill involves a lot of client contact (in which lunches/dinners etc. are occurring on a regular basis) it’s important to have a closer look at the candidate’s behaviour in this kind of environment. Never forget that good manners means good business, while poor manners can mean poor business.

You might even consider of inviting the two or three shortlisted candidates for the same lunch job interview test. It would also give you additionally a clue on how the candidates would behave and interact with each other. Surely an insightful experience which an office interview or video interview would never be able to give you. Seize the opportunity and find out in a lunch interview how your potential new hire communicates, behaves, eats and reacts to different challenges in a different surrounding!


What was your biggest takeaway today from these points? Which lesson are you most excited to use in your own lunch interview situation? I would appreciate it if you could leave a comment and let me know. If you know anyone who could benefit from this article, make sure you share it. You will be helping them out and me too! Thanks!

Author: Karin Schroeck-Singh

Karin Schroeck-Singh is a trilingual Career Optimizer at She has an MBA from the University of Leicester (UK) and gained 20 years of international work experience in various industries in Italy, the UK and India. Her passion lies in creating multilingual, high-quality content in career matters, giving highly engaging public speeches and helping job seekers to optimize their career by providing professional coaching. She is the author of several ebooks, among them “44 Tips for a successful Video Interview” ( She has written several career and business articles for international HR and Marketing companies. Her favourite motto is “Learn from anyone, anywhere, anytime!” Follow her on Twitter @CareerHeads.

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